Sunday, August 2, 2015

The tragic life of Amy Winehuse

On day two of Camp Innerkid, I went to a Sunday matinee, something I did a lot in my early teens. It was a way to escape the doldrums of a Sunday afternoon. While certainly not a kid's film, the Winehouse documentary is a fascinating look at an adolescence gone very wrong for an extraordinarily talented person.

By age 15, Winehouse was bulimic. She told her mother, who did nothing. The woman believed it was a phase. She went on being a bulimic until she died. No one, not her girlfriends, not her managers, not her lovers, no one apparently ever addressed this with her. When she was diagnosed with a serious drinking and drug problem, she refused to go unless her father, who had disappeared from her life when she was 10 and only came back when she got rich and famous, urged her to go. On the contrary, he told her she didn't need it. Amy Winehouse was a passionate and insecure young woman who let the men in her life run the show. They enabled everything so they could ride her coattails to vicarious fame and evident fortune. She finally did go to rehab but against doctors' orders, she took her junky husband with her. They lasted a few days. Bulimia severely damaged her heart and she was warned that if she drank again, she would die. Her autopsy showed 0.4 blood alcohol, a more than lethal dose.

Her story is sadly familiar.A talented young person with enough fame to build a staff of people who need her to keep working no matter what to keep the money coming in. In one of the more gruesome episodes, she goes back to drugs to keep from having to go on tour, but the staff pick her up even though she is passed out and put her on a plane to Serbia and insist that she perform. She refuses and the press reviles her. I was particularly disgusted at the Jay Leno clip where he makes fun of her misery.

I didn't know much about her except the media spectacle. I was blown away by her poetry and her voice. Her duet with Tony Bennett is exquisite. I'm glad I took my 14-year-old self  to see that film. We knew well the loneliness of adolescence, the parents who couldn't see the loneliness, and how welcome drink and drugs were as an antidote. We could both sympathize with Amy.

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